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St. Paul’s edges John Carroll, 2-1, in IAAM A soccer quarterfinals; Notre Dame Prep advances with 2-0 win over Mercy

With the postseason pressure on, the No. 5 St. Paul’s girls soccer team owned the two biggest moments against No. 12 John Carroll in the second half of Monday’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference quarterfinal game.

St. Paul’s coach Joie Gill wasn’t surprised senior forward Kendall Steer and junior goalkeeper Kylee Cross were instrumental when the Gators needed them most.

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Steer scored a penalty kick with 28 minutes to play and Cross stopped a Patriots penalty kick 10 minutes later, keying the No. 5 Gators’ 2-1 home victory to send them to Wednesday’s semifinal round.

Third-seeded St. Paul’s, which rallied from an early 1-0 deficit, improved to 9-3 overall and travels to No. 4 Archbishop Spalding on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

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Steer’s two goals and Cross’ stop on Lauren Bullock’s penalty kick capped a quality team effort, which was needed against a strong road performance from the Patriots.

“Those two are just every day, head down, working hard and holding everyone accountable,” Gill said.

In the past two weeks of practice, the Gators have put in extra time on penalty kicks. Gill said Cross has become so efficient stopping them, she was cautiously optimistic her keeper would help protect the lead.

Bullock placed a firm low shot to the right that Cross smothered.

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“It feels really good to save PKs,” said Cross, who has stopped both penalty kicks she’s faced this season. “I guess, but I can usually tell, I have a good intuition for them. … My thought process was save it and keep the game going — we can’t let them tie it. I don’t want us to go into overtime.”

St. Paul's goalie Kylee Cross, right, tries to get the ball away from John Carroll's Macy Vail, left, and Ella Steck in the second half. Vail was fouled in the penalty box during the play.
St. Paul's goalie Kylee Cross, right, tries to get the ball away from John Carroll's Macy Vail, left, and Ella Steck in the second half. Vail was fouled in the penalty box during the play. (Kenneth K. Lam)

The sixth-seeded Patriots (6-6-3) pressed to the end with Sophia Sotirakos, Jenna Bondyra and Ella Steck all getting off consecutive shots that were blocked by defenders in the final two minutes.

After the game, Cross made sure to name all of the defenders — center backs Norah Heacock and Emmy Gjerde, and flanks Ashley Hayunga, Madeline Cook and Madison Beale — who played a big role in holding off the Patriots.

In the regular-season meeting Oct. 6, John Carroll claimed a 3-2 road win, and Monday’s game started out looking similar. The Patriots started fast, and even after having a goal waived off because of an offsides call, kept up the pressure. Madi Shaffery cleanly struck a free kick from 35 yards that found the near post in the game’s 11th minute for the opening goal. After the visitors had a second goal disallowed because of a foul on Cross, the Gators settled in, maintained possession and got the game tied on Steer’s first goal off a feed from Alana Flaherty with 5:03 left in the half.

Opportunistic work from Lauren Steer, who was taken down at the top of the penalty area by John Carroll goalie Mya Gerbes, set up Kendall Steer’s successful penalty kick. Kendall Steer was proud of the way her team responded throughout the difficult assignment.

“I think our team is really good at coming together, working hard and finding it in ourself,” she said. “We started slow, but once we’re all encouraging each other and on the same page, we find it in ourselves to dig deep. And I think once we started getting back into our rhythm, we could have played 20 more minutes and put some more in there. I think we want to stay alive and we’ll do anything to make sure we have another game.”

As for getting past perennial league power Spading on Wednesday, Steer was precise with her words: “Dig deep, play as a team and do what we’ve been doing.”

The Patriots, with 10 seniors on the roster, saw a potentially significant playoff run cut short. Coach Hayley Howe saw the same maxed-out effort she’s received from her team all season, but sometimes they got away from their possession game. She said the two disallowed goals in the first half, when the Patriots were surging, were big letdowns.

“This team is probably the most comprehensive team I’ve had. From top to bottom, this was a really special senior class and they kind of embodied what I want out of this program — from JV to varsity to the time they put in during the offseason,” Howe said.

Goals: JC – Shaffery; SP – K. Steer 2

Assists: SP -- Flaherty Saves: JC – Gerbes 7; SP – Cross 4

Half: 1-1

No. 7 Notre Dame Prep 2, No. 8 Mercy 0

The host Blazers got a goal in each half and a seven-save performance from goalkeeper Katie Glagola to advance to Wednesday’s IAAM A Conference semifinals.

Forward Patricia Kohler scored five minutes into play off a feed from Natalie O’Brocki and the Blazers got an insurance goal from defender Mary Sommers — a direct kick from 30 yards — 10 minutes into the second half. The home team protected the advantage with quality possession and some timely saves from Glagola.

Notre Dame Prep, the fourth seed in the playoffs, improved to 7-3-2 overall and will travel to No. 1 McDonogh on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. In the regular season, McDonogh claimed a 3-2 win over the Blazers on Oct. 20. Mercy finished its season with a 7-6-2 mark.

Goals: JC – Shaffery; SP – K. Steer 2

Assists: SP -- Flaherty Saves: JC – Gerbes 7; SP – Cross 4

Half: 1-1

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